Last summer, Scott Perlmutter, a 44-year-old gay TV executive from Los Angeles, went on a 10-day vacation to Mykonos—a tiny, gay-friendly island off the coast of Greece. Among the dizzying array of skimpy Speedos, ridiculously fit men, and breathtaking sunsets, Perlmutter was so high on life, he had to look down to see heaven.
Like many of his gay friends, Perlmutter is a travel fanatic. His yearly trips are carefully planned months in advance and include a mixture of fun and culture. In just the last few years, he’s been to Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Amsterdam, and Berlin. He’s even gone on a lavish gay cruise to Italy.
But when his trendy (and, more relevantly, non-Jewish) friends suggested Tel Aviv as their next destination, Perlmutter thought they were a bit meshugah—out of their minds.
“Last time I was in Israel, back in the ‘80s, the airport was a field with some planes on it,” says Perlmutter. “There was barely a tarmac.”
He was shocked to discover that not only has the city’s airport undergone a billion-dollar facelift (Ben-Gurion was recently named the third-best airport in the Middle East, after Dubai and Abu Dhabi, by the Airport Service Quality Awards, the Oscars of the airport industry) but Tel Aviv itself was unrecognizable.
“It was incredible,” says Perlmutter. “It was like Vegas on steroids.”
Perlmutter and his friends spent the entire 10-day trip in Tel Aviv, never leaving the city limits. They went to the gay beach, partied at gay bars and nightclubs, even stayed at a gay hotel, one of several that have popped up around the city in recent years. But perhaps the biggest draw, according to Perlmutter, was the never-ending supply of good-looking men.
“My neck almost twisted off from looking at them,” Perlmutter says, laughing. “I had a $500 phone bill from all the pictures of hot men I sent to my friends back home.”
In the last three years, Tel Aviv has become the new “it” place among gay tourists. The city estimates more than 50,000 LGBT travelers will make their way to Tel Aviv this year—and that number is expected to double in 2014.
A report by the Gay European Tourist Association, which came out in October, shows gay Europeans spend up to $65 billion each year on travel. Add to that the $62 billion gay Americans spend on their vacations annually, and it’s no wonder Tel Aviv is ecstatic about its new pink-city status.
But unlike, say, Amsterdam or Berlin, which have developed into gay hotspots naturally over decades, Tel Aviv’s coming out was a much quicker and more calculated affair.
TLV came 3rd in the “Ultimate Dream City” category
4th in the “Romance City” Category
2nd in the “City that never sleeps” Category
7th in the “Best Resort Town” Category
7th in the “Food and Wine” Category
2nd in the “Pride City” Category
F.O.D magazine readers are Israeli gay men in their early thirties, they are cosmopolitan, multilingual, highly educated, open minded, high earners and early adopters. The Israeli gay man has a well-developed consumer and travel culture, most of them with income well above average that allows them to consume luxury and high quality brands and to travel two or three times a year. Tel aviv has been crowned with numerous accolades making it one of the leading gay markets in the world – it is now the place to be!
The exhibition revolved around Shirazi’s influence on TLV’s nightlife for the past 20 years. Live performances by the nightlife and fashion icon Amanda Lepore (NY), the Spanish dancer La Menor and all the FFF team at Beit Ha’ir Museum. Music: Asi Kojak, Tal Cohen, Moti S and more.
* Who is Amanda Lepore? Amanda Lepore is an American model, nightlife and fashion icon, performance artist, recording artist and transgender public figure. She has appeared in advertising for numerous companies, including M.A.C. Cosmetics, Mego Jeans, The Blonds, Swatch, CAMP Cosmetics, and Heatherette, which has used her likeness on clothing as well as hiring her as a model. Lepore is also noted as a regular subject in photographer David LaChapelle‘s work, serving as his muse, as well as many other photographers including Terry Richardson. She participated in his Artists and Prostitutes 1985-2005 exhibit in New York, where she “lived” in a voyeuristic life-sized set. Amanda Lepore has also released several singles, many written by and/or recorded with Cazwell. In 2011 she released her full-length debut album “I…Amanda Lepore” on Peace Bisquit.
“A kid last week said to another kid, ‘I have two moms,’ ” recalled Idan Netzer, who oversees the center’s preschool, which opened in November. “And the other kid said: ‘So what? Daniel in my kindergarten has two moms too.’ ”
It’s been a big year for gay parents in Israel. In May a committee of the Health Ministry recommended that surrogacy be allowed for gay men. (Currently they can only travel abroad for that option.) A month later organizers of Tel Aviv Pride, one of the city’s largest annual events, splashed images of two real-life gay fathers and their children on publicity materials and a banner next to Town Hall, making them the faces of the festivities.
But the societal change really hit home with the premiere in November of “Mom and Dads,” a series on the cable channel Hot. This comic drama, starring three of Israel’s most popular actors, is about a gay couple raising a child with a single woman.
If that sounds familiar, it might be because the basic premise, on the surface at least, bears a striking resemblance to the American show on NBC, “The New Normal,” which just landed in Israel as well, appearing opposite “Mom and Dads” on another big cable network, Yes. While the American show mines laughs from outrageous characters and snarky one-liners, “Mom and Dads” focuses on the complex dynamics of the parental triangle, layering their insecurities and complicated emotions with wry humor.
The shows may be fighting for viewers, but they’ve already won the battle for acceptance. For the most part Israeli society, which has made long and quick strides in gay rights in the past two decades, has reacted to the baby bump and the programs about it with nonchalance. Even the country’s sizable religious segment has merely shrugged at the series.
“As soon as the gay community became a parental community, I think acceptance by society became smoother,” said Doron Mamet-Meged, founder of Tammuz, a business that helps couples, the majority of them gay men, have children via surrogates in India.
One reason may be a heavy cultural focus on making families, and the subtle social pressure (and not-so-subtle familial pressure) to procreate that stems from tradition as well as modern Jewish history.
The population balance between Jews and Arabs has political implications, so demographics are an Israeli obsession. In building families gay parents contribute to the national project of maintaining a Jewish majority. “For Israelis it doesn’t matter how you make a family,” said Mirit Toovi, who heads Hot’s drama department and gave the green light to “Mom and Dads.” “If you make a family, you’ve done the right thing.”
Avner Bernheimer, a creator and writer of “Mom and Dads” who also wrote the breakthrough gay Israeli film “Yossi & Jagger” in 2002. Mr. Bernheimer said that while his father accepted him when he first came out, it wasn’t until he had a child that he really felt embraced. “I think it was easier for him to have a gay son with a grandchild,” he said.
Mr. Bernheimer pitched “Mom and Dads” in 2007, when he and his partner were in the process of having a child with a single female friend. The show, in large part, dramatizes their experiences.
“It was the easiest sale ever,” he said of the pitch. Gay characters had appeared on Israeli TV by then, but not gay families. This was pre-“Modern Family,” so there wasn’t precedent. Tellingly, Israel skipped over the party-boy phase (“Queer as Folk”) and the professional bachelor phase (“Will & Grace”), seemingly uninterested in a gay bedroom until a crib arrived.
The surge in gay parenthood coincides with a number of high-profile court cases between 2002 and 2009 that put the issue on the public agenda and opened possibilities to same-sex couples, like adoption and surrogacy abroad, paternity leave for gay couples and the ability to adopt the biological child of a same-sex partner.
While lesbians and straight single women have been having children for decades, thanks in part to the state’s generous policies, which provide free in-vitro fertilization procedures for up to two children until parents are 45, gay men didn’t have a way to legally expand their family tree until the recent court decisions. Since then parenthood has preoccupied gay men — more so than marriage. (Courts recognized same-sex marriage performed abroad in 2006, leading the gay community to turn its attention to parenting, trading the chuppah for the bris as its ritual of choice.)
Parenthood “is more visible, it’s more practical, more possible,” said Itai Pinkas, a former Tel Aviv City Council member who brought the court case that led to the Health Ministry committee’s recommendation and who has 2-year-old twins with his partner through a surrogate in India.
“People feel more stable about their general civil rights,” he said. “That’s an atmosphere in which you’re more likely to think about having children.”
That surrogacy has become so common is perhaps less surprising when you realize that the practice has biblical roots. Consider the story of Abraham, who fathered a child through Hagar, his wife’s handmaiden, when his wife, Sarah, was unable to conceive.
A few millenniums later companies like Tammuz are capitalizing on Abraham’s example. In February the American-based support organization Men Having Babies will hold a conference at the Tel Aviv Gay Center to introduce 10 new surrogacy agencies.
“Mom and Dads” and “The New Normal” seem to have unintentionally reflected reality rather than challenged it. “We were afraid it would be a bit niche,” Ms. Toovi said. “When we started talking about it, you saw those new families only in Tel Aviv. But now you see them all around.”
Yoram Mokady, vice president for content at the Yes network, agreed. “We thought we were brave and unique,” he said. “But maybe we weren’t.”